It recalls a simpler time, when summer blockbusters were sold on Hollywood star power rather than franchise familiarity. The stars of “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, now 48 and 37 respectively, are considerably older than the leads of last summer’s highest grossing film, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” (Shia LaBeouf/Megan Fox, both 24). But while the performers may have passed their commercial ‘best by’ date, they’re nowhere near expiry; they bring a wholesome charisma to the silly script that might otherwise have been embarrassing for its over-the-top protagonists.
In fact, the story is so absurd that Cruise and Diaz’s performances are probably the only way to sell it. Sure, the twentieth-century goofiness is refreshing in an age where the dour Christopher Nolan is synonymous with action, but the film feels just as often like an instant-relic. “Knight and Day” is no “Dark Knight,” a fact that is made especially apparent as the film tips into its second half and the tendrils of the overgrown plot start to suffocate it.
The difference, appropriately enough, is as stark as day and night. The first half has a constant energy to it, blowing by at such an airy pace that it doesn’t really matter what’s trite, or nonsensical, or what Peter Sarsgaard’s deal is. Cruise plays Roy Miller (a spy every bit as distinctive as his name) who inadvertently becomes involved with Jane Average: June Havens (Diaz), on a flight gone awry. In eluding his aggressors, he must also protect her, while a mutual attraction blossoms—Yada, yada, yada. The latter hour then expounds on why Miller’s being chased (a game changing super-battery called a zephyr—Just go with it), and the energy takes a nosedive. There’s also greater emphasis on the relationship dynamic, which is anything but the movie’s strong suit.
In principle, I’m fine with so hollow an action film exploiting clichéd devices—Namely the girl and the McGuffin—But only as shorthand to keep the story moving. The second half of “Knight” stops frequently to nurture its ill-begotten narrative, and for the most part, I couldn’t care less. Shoot some more guys.
However, of the plethora of problems with “Knight and Day,” probably the most serious is that it provokes absolute ambivalence in retrospect. Anyone who saw Robert Luketic’s “Killers” will attest that director James Mangold got something right here, but that something is largely devoid of spark. That Cruise and Diaz (both of whom are overdue for a great starring role) work so well in the film makes its utter averageness all the more resounding. Despite their best efforts, it’s still the sort of experience you forget about the same day you have it.
The film is just chemical entertainment; fun in a completely artificial way, like some palatable off-brand snack food you’ll only eat once. Even with decent action and occasionally successful humor, I wouldn't recommend that anyone actually go out of their way to see it. Or change the channel, for that matter.
“Knight and Day” is a flash in the pan so forgettable that if the studio rereleased it in thirteen years, I’m not sure anyone would notice.